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Animal Welfare - Book Reviews

Animal Welfare vol 24 issue 1 Volume 31 
Issue 2
May 2022




Bearing Witness: Ruth Harrison and British Farm Animal Welfare (1920–2000)

C Kirchhelle (2021). Published by Palgrave Macmillan, Crinan Street, London N1 9XW, UK. 297 pages Hardback (ISBN: 978-3030627911). Price £29.93, (Kindle Edition free of charge).


Bearing Witness is a landmark work in our understanding not only of Ruth Harrison, but a century of debate about animal welfare and animal welfare science.

The book is marketed as a biography of Ruth Harrison and the many political, scientific, and public organisations involved in the struggle over animal welfare issues in the 20th Century. Although this is a true description, the book is also very much a biography covering the birth and the development of the very concept of scientific animal welfare in the English-speaking world. Animal welfare scientists today rarely realise that the fundamental concept of our endeavours is a rather young and disputed concept. But to understand what we do in animal welfare science is very much dependent upon understanding the key concepts that we work with, and here Kirchhelle’s book is a veritable treasure trove.

The first part of the book is a highly interesting investigation of the social and family backgrounds that shaped Ruth Harrison into the woman who wrote Animal Machines. Kirchhelle shows how this famous book was by no means a random stroke of literature. On the contrary, it becomes clear how Animal Machines and the fight for animal welfare and rights was born out of already existing ideological underpinnings, such as Quakerism, socialism, pacifism, vegetarianism, and even avant garde art. Thus, Kirchhelle expertly uses the case of Ruth Harrison to show the connectedness of social thinking and societal changes on many levels during the first and early second part of the 20th Century. Ruth Harrison did not, as Kirchhelle phrases it, “emerge by chance.” Especially interesting, and new to me, was the Winstens (Harrison’s parents) relationship to progressive thinkers such as George Bernard Shaw and the early animal rights proponent, Henry Salt.

Sometime around 1960 the Crusade Against all Cruelty to Animals pushed a leaflet through Harrison’s letterbox. The subject was the many evils of intensive animal farming and the leaflet included images of calves in veal crates. Although she was not moved toward writing immediately, the subject matter would not leave Harrison and, by 1961, she was actively carrying out research for a text illuminating the animal welfare problems in the current animal industry. The timing was not bad as the post-war animal science scene was seeing an increasing break with the positivism and behaviourism of the early parts of the century. Ethology and ethologists were gaining traction, and organisations such as UFAW were actively working to show how proper science and acceptance of and indeed respect for animals’ welfare were not at odds with each other. Kirchhelle’s description of Harrison’s work to prepare her text shows how Animal Machines was, in many ways, a type of meta-study. It was obviously a text written for the general public but drawing upon many scientific sources such as Cambridge veterinary researcher, David Sainsbury’s research, naturalist, Roy Bedichek’s work on boredom in battery hens, ethologist, William Homan Thorpe’s work on animal cognition and, of course, UFAW research. There was, however, one other important inspiration that Harrison drew upon. While she was researching for and writing Animal Machines in the UK, Rachel Carson published her seminal work on environmentalism, Silent Spring (1962), in the US. Harrison was both inspired by the overlap between the two womens’ subject areas and the impact that Silent Spring had on the public discourse on environmental protection — an impact that Harrison very much desired for her own book. As perhaps one of the clearest examples of Harrison’s talent for public relations work, she convinced Carson to write the foreword for Animal Machines. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of this in reaching out to as wide an audience as possible. As Kirchhelle writes “[s]ecuring a foreword by Rachel Carson — whose name appeared more prominently on the cover of Animal Machines than Harrison’s […] was a major publicity coup.”

In parts III and IV of the book, Kirchhelle focuses on the impact of the book on both public discourse and, through Harrison’s continued activism, on politics and farming policy and regulations. As the rest of the book, this is an extremely fluid combination of a Ruth Harrison personal biography and a related description of the organisational and political landscape of farm animal welfare in the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, it is one strength of the book in general and of parts III and IV specifically that we are presented with the workings and interrelations between (among many others) the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (and council), British Veterinary Association and State Veterinary Service. Similarly, Kirchhelle skilfully describes the development of animal welfare and animal rights activism during these decades, and especially the way that Ruth Harrison navigated her personal way of activism between the different animal activism organisations and government institutions. Staying, for the most part, away from tight commitments to specific organisations or institutions enabled Harrison in her focus on incremental reform on animal welfare in farming while retaining both allies and enemies on both sides of the debate.

In the last parts of the book, Kirchhelle describes how many of the scientific and policy-related matters much disputed in the early and middle parts of the century slowly develop into the mainstream. For me, as a philosopher, it is also an interesting part because it situates Harrison in relation to the development of modern animal ethics. It is, for example, clear by Kirchhelle’s account that Harrison in some sense continues a commitment to a sort of middle ground. Seen by the more traditionalist parts of the RSPCA as radical, Harrison, nonetheless is viewed by the emerging animal ethicists such as Peter Singer and the so-called Oxford Group as quite the conservative. As Kirchhelle quotes from his correspondence with Singer: “she was for slow incremental reform […] I wanted more public campaigning, protests, encouragement of vegetarianism etc.”

Kirchhelle’s fundamental aim of this book is, as I see it, to show us how Ruth Harrison’s life and activism was a vast and multifaceted endeavour. Indeed, after reading Bearing Witness one can easily get the feeling, as I did, that writing Animal Machines was perhaps not the most important part of Harrison’s life’s work. But it might have been a necessary one.

Although Bearing Witness is a biography it is certainly not intended for the general but interested public. It is a fact-, science-, notation-, and interpretation-heavy piece of scholarly work on a significant level. I am currently reading a biography on the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle, and I can read that in bed just before going to sleep. Bearing Witness is not a book for such circumstances. Compared, however, with similar scientific works in its field it is very well written, and the narrative is engaging and makes for a genre-wise, joyful read.

I would recommend this book to all those who work on animal welfare, human-animal studies, or animal philosophy. It is a rare and comprehensive work, giving us both new and better insights into the historical, political, and conceptual background of animal welfare.

Jes Lynning Harfeld,
Aalborg University, Denmark

Practical Canine Behaviour: For Veterinary Nurses and Technicians, Second Edition

S Hedges (2021). Published by CABI, Nosworthy Way, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8DE, UK. 312 pages Paperback (ISBN: 978-1789246810). Price £45.00, €52.00, US$60.00.

A cheeky little confession: as a veterinary nurse working in academia, I bought the first edition of this book when it arrived on the market back in the mid-2010s. It then sat on my ‘must read to remain’ current pile until it became buried in more pressing ‘must reads’ which also remained unread until further buried again in more pressing documents. Such that I have a pristine copy of edition one still gleaming at me from my bookshelf, relegated to the academic shelf of perpetual self-shame and failed good intentions that is probably so familiar to us all. Thus, I was jolted back into a state of intense embarrassment by the recognition that so many years had passed that we were now onto edition two, and I knew I was now both a normal academic and also a self-failed one. I also knew beyond certainty that I must accept the invite to review and expunge this shame from my academic soul. And expunge it I have: this book was such a good read for the behaviour-focused veterinary nurse that I have read it twice — cover-to-cover!

This book is a one-stop shop in canine behaviour for the practicing veterinary nurse. It has strong credentials: the author is both an established clinical animal behaviourist and a registered veterinary nurse with many years of in-practice experience. This dual background shows in the breadth and depth of coverage and the approach the author has taken to covering the content. This author has clearly written for a readership and market that she knows well and is comfortable interacting with.

With a clear practical focus, this book begins by giving the reader a broad understanding of the ethology of the dog, covering both ontological and phylogenetic aspects. The author then turns her attention to problem behaviour, beginning by considering the influence of physiology, health and diet on canine behaviour, before focusing on the principles of learning theory. The author then moves to problem behaviour, outlining key types of problem behaviours that may be encountered, approaches to modification of behaviour and supportive adjuncts that may be useful when doing so. The remainder of the book is very much applied canine behaviour for the veterinary nurse, and addresses both setting up the veterinary practice experience to optimise canine behavioural health, preventative behavioural advice for new owners (particularly puppy owners), and factors to consider when running puppy classes through the practice. Finally, the author covers behavioural and training problems that may arise and where the veterinary nurses’ support may be sought by owners. Handy flow charts are provided to help the veterinary nurse determine whether this is a problem that can be managed by them and when to refer (and to who). Guidance is also provided on how to resolve some of the more common training-type problems that may occur, along with control and management-type triage and behavioural first aid.

While this book was clearly written by a veterinary nurse for veterinary nurses, it would be a mistake for other readers to gloss over this book as not for them or as lacking sufficient depth to be of interest to the veterinarian. In my opinion, this book provides sufficient detail that it should be of value to the whole veterinary team. Much of the content will also be of value to other canine professionals and the keen dog owner as, while the author’s intention is to provide veterinary nurses with the confidence to behaviourally advocate for their canine charges, the approach taken to the content means that the material is easily transferrable into other contexts too.

In terms of the positives of this book, the breadth and depth of coverage is one of its key selling points. There is very little that this author hasn’t thought to include that should be included. The veterinary nurse purchasing this book will feel exceptionally well supported in developing their understanding of canine behaviour and practically applying this in a safe, effective, and responsible way. I was particularly impressed with the coverage of learning theory, in particular that the author extended this understanding to include concepts such as overshadowing and blocking, as this is a level of depth not always seen in material aimed at veterinary nurses. While it is covering fundamental and sometimes complex concepts, the author achieves this through straightforward, easy-to-understand, explanations. These are supported by visual diagrams, bullet-pointed text boxes and flow charts that quickly summarise the key points. It is a shame that these are not available as A4 print-outs via the publisher’s website as I imagine several of these would otherwise find themselves tacked to the inner cupboard of the consultation room and used as aide-mémoires during a busy period of nursing and veterinary consultions.

Of course, no book is perfect and the balanced book review should also touch on areas of improvement. I was a little disappointed by the engagement with the scientific literature shown throughout the book, but particularly in relation to the supporting methods of behavioural modification. The author inconsistently uses references to support claims when reporting science and this was particularly evident in this section when adjuncts mentioned were not always critically evaluated for quality of evidence. Sometimes a citation is provided, and sometimes they merely allude to the research. I found that frustrating as I would have liked to have seen the source of the claim made, particularly in relation to alpha-casozepine, where the studies undertaken to examine its efficacy are not necessarily high quality. The other area for me that was lacking in a book aimed at veterinary nursing professionals was clinical governance and its potential interplay with canine behaviour. I felt this was a pity given its centrality within the professional code of conduct for veterinary nurses (and veterinarians) within the UK, and the day one skills/competency requirements. The use of tools such as significant event auditing and clinical auditing have real potential to effect change for future patients/clients of the practice or the veterinary professional, and for monitoring application of behavioural best practice and uptake within clinical practice. However, perhaps this is a theme to consider for edition three, when these concepts have been more broadly applied to veterinary behaviour, rather than the current common focus on aspects of practice like anaesthesia and infection control!

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to any veterinary professional working in veterinary practice, whether a student, newly qualified, or with more miles on the clock than an aged London black cab. I would also highly recommend it for the career break veterinary nurse preparing to re-enter clinical nursing, particularly one entering a role with a consulting remit. It draws on the very extensive experience and knowledge of the author and is a very cost-effective way to undertake relatively comprehensive Continuing Professional Development that will be utilised daily in clinical practice. There is something in there for everyone in practice and I am confident that, unless you are already a practicing clinical animal behaviourist, you will find something of value that can be utilised in your daily clinical role at the veterinary practice. It will also be useful to veterinary and veterinary nursing educators focusing on practical application, though with students exhorted now to demonstrate evidence-based practice as part of their day one skills, they may want to question some of the unsupported or weakly supported claims and the educator should be prepared for this.

Louise Buckley,
The University of Edinburgh, UK

Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic (Flat-faced) Companion Animals, First Edition

Edited by RMA Packer and DG O’Neill (2021). Published by CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA. 418 pages Paperback (ISBN: 978-0367207243), Hardback (ISBN: 978-0367207410). Price: £36.30 (Paperback), £88.99 (Hardback), £34.48 (Kindle Edition).


I have to admit that when I was asked if I would review this book I had an initial feeling of dread because a part of me, honestly, didn’t want to read it. I find it utterly soul-destroying that after a century or more of knowing about the health problems associated with this conformation we have come to a point where this book is still so necessary. However, I agreed, and I’m very glad that I did.

Almost the first thing you read on opening the book is a Darwin quote that sums up the entire problem in 17 eloquent words: “Man selects only for his own good: Nature only for that of the being which she tends.” I read this and felt an immediate sense of relief. I had been a little worried that the book was going to be a cold, clinical look at what vets are facing on a daily basis in practice. So much CPD focuses on the clinical issues like BOAS and its correction but this quote made me think that I might be pleasantly surprised.

The book is divided into two parts, the second being the Clinical viewpoints. I’d like to tackle this first. There is absolutely no doubt that the collective expertise that this book brings to the reader is immense. If you are facing clinical issues in these patients — notably dogs — as so many vets and nurses are worldwide, then I doubt you could come up with a question or scenario that isn’t covered in an in-depth and comprehensive way from ophthalmology and neurology, to BOAS surgery, to GI and dermatological issues.

The title of the book refers to companion animals but I was disappointed that there is virtually no mention of cats, rabbits or horses — all companion animals suffering from the increasing trend towards brachycephaly. With around half the rabbit population of the UK being brachycephalic and the enormous dental issues that come with this skull shape, it would have been nice to see more on the other species affected.

The huge popularity of the three most common brachycephalic dog breeds is, of course, the reason that the book is dominated by that species. So many of us talk about BOAS and so much CPD is dedicated to it but it’s great to have a book that acknowledges the multitude of diseases that these animals suffer besides their respiratory difficulties. Just reading the table of contents is enough to make your heart sink for these creatures. Anyone questioning whether it is morally wrong to continue the breeding of these animals would be hard pushed to argue with this weight of evidence I think.

And, for me, this is where the book is really excellent — the first half, diplomatically entitled Wider viewpoints, really is a wonderful ethical discussion around the whole issue that had me immersed from the start.

It starts with a fascinating historical look at how the animals came about and became more and more extreme. Interestingly, roughly every 50 years the health issues have a large peak in interest/outrage from the veterinary community and the public. The reason, apparently, is because within two generations humans forget what has gone before.

I’ve never been a fan of history but in this case it was really very engaging. Even since the early 1900s there has been huge conflict between breeders and the show community and the veterinary profession. I think many of us still feel that this is the case. There will, I suppose, always be an inevitable conflict between those prioritising looks and those prioritising health.

The book has a detailed look into ethical dilemmas and how different moral philosophers would characterise these struggles. It asks the question, “What will be gained if I speak up?” I think this is deeply pertinent to so many of us.

There is an excellent section, in answer to this, on how you can approach these health problems with your clients. We are so often playing catch-up when first presented with a new puppy. The owner has had hours with a breeder, often done no research, and it can be enormously difficult to raise the issues without alienating them on that first contact. The advice with regards to this is really very good.

I loved the section on the importance of nurses and nurse clinics. I believe that good nurses are the absolute cornerstone of veterinary practice and are often underused. This section looks not only at how nurse clinics could help with care of these animals but prevention of issues as well. This is a real opportunity to bond clients you might worry about losing.

At the time of writing only around 13% of practices were offering free pre-purchase advice. This really needs to change if we are to have any hope of dissuading prospective owners and improving animal welfare. Nurses are very probably the key to this.

This Wider viewpoints section for me was unexpected and absolutely superb. Anyone with an interest in ethics and welfare as well as clinical education will love it, I’m sure. I was pleased to say that at the very least the book is clear from the outset that we really should be talking to clients about this and have the courage to speak up.

What’s missing besides the other species? I hold my hands up and confess to being possibly the wrong person for this review as my beliefs are entrenched, but it is me so I can only write it from my point of view. I’m often contacted by vets who are suffering mental health issues related to the deluge of these animals in their clinics. They feel powerless and overwhelmed. I would have liked to have seen more mention of this. I feel it’s a significant mental burden on an already fragile profession that we shouldn't ignore. I would also like to have seen more ethical debate around the subject of reproduction. Personally, I believe that it is deeply ethically questionable to perpetuate breeds, through veterinary intervention, that are not only almost certain to suffer but that are incapable of reproducing naturally.

As I said at the start, I find it very sad that, after around 150 years of vets and welfare organisations trying to change the trend for brachycephaly, this book has still had to be written. BUT, given our current circumstances, we absolutely need it. We need the clinical education but we, very much, also need to consider the deeper issues, which this book certainly does. Rowena and Dan should be rightly proud of this work and the outstanding expertise they have gathered to bring it together. Whether we like the status quo or not, this book is an essential and invaluable resource for anyone working with these animals or interested in the wider ethics of such extreme conformation.

Emma Milne,
Veterinary Surgeon, Perpignan, France

Broom and Fraser’s Domestic Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Sixth Edition

By DM Broom (2021). Published by CABI, Nosworthy Way, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8DE, UK. 545 pages Paperback (ISBN: 978-1789248784), Hardback (ISBN: 978-1789249835). Price £44.99 (Paperback), £94.99 (Hardback).


The Broom and Fraser book on domestic animal behaviour and welfare is a classic tome, which many of us have frequented in one or more of its many previous versions. The first edition dates back to 1974 and, like the two subsequent editions (1980 and 1990), covered farm animals only. From the 4th edition, published in 2007, it was enlarged to comprise all (or most) domestic animals.

This latest and 6th edition has been revised by Professor Emeritus Don Broom alone, as Professor Andrew Fraser passed away in September 2021 at the age of 94. The book has been modernised in its layout, with most if not all figures re-drawn or re-coloured to give a very professional and unified look. The structure of the book is similar to previous editions, with the initial group of chapters introducing welfare concepts and their assessment, as well as fundamental aspects of behaviour and their measurements. The next 14 chapters are grouped into topics covering organisation of behaviour and specific types of behaviour such as social, reproductive, and parental behaviour. This is followed by eight chapters on different welfare topics, such as transport, stunning and slaughter, and abnormal behaviour. Finally, the remaining chapters cover the welfare of the main farm animal and companion species but not laboratory species such as rats and mice.

The back cover advertises a completely updated and revised edition, and with new chapters or sections on climate change, sustainability, ethics, philosophy, big data, modern technologies, brain function, and emotion — as well as of course behaviour and welfare. For this reason, the 6th edition is 100 pages longer than its predecessor published in 2015. And, indeed, many recent references have been added, and review papers are often mentioned at the end of paragraphs and sections whenever relevant, which is useful for further, more in-depth reading. In addition, some scientific articles and books are suggested at the end of each chapter, guiding the reader to other sources of information.

The glossary has moved to the front as a reminder to the reader that it may be prudent to refresh some of the definitions. These same definitions are repeated in the text in italics at the first mention of a word or concept, which makes the reading easy. I was intrigued by the definition of an animal (including humans), having never thought about such a definition before: “A living being with a nervous system and other complex mechanisms for obtaining energy, using energy and reproducing”, and found myself trying to think of non-animal exceptions that would be covered by this (I failed).

It is rare to have a book this comprehensive that is not an edited volume from a multitude of chapter authors. By being written by originally two authors and now updated by one of them, it gives the book a good flow and redundancy is kept to a minimum. That said, it also means that the author, although well-read and widely published, cannot be an expert in all the subjects covered. Single-author books do give the writer more freedom, and the reader should embrace this, and be willing to disagree with certain concepts or definitions. Broom’s way of describing emotion as a physiologically describable component of a feeling may differ from the way others use these terms. He does not hesitate to name the worst (human) treatment of any farm animal (spoiler alert: the confinement of sows in stalls or tethers) and calls the rearing of fast-growing broilers the most serious animal welfare problem in the world based on the severity of the problems and number of individuals affected. With bold statements like that it would have been nice to have had more recent information included, eg about the developments in some of the large broiler production companies where a shift to slower growing breeds is happening — even if slowly. In the final and newly added chapter on Welfare in a moral world, Broom lists some terminology changes. I can support the no-longer novel notion that humans are included when using the word animal, and that sustainable systems should comprise keeping animals without compromising their welfare. I am not sure that using non-human animal names to describe certain human behaviours, such as ‘stubborn as a donkey’ is a great problem, and I personally do not agree with the suggestion to abolish innate as a term, nor that differentiating between mind and brain is illogical (Box 42.1).

Although newer references are dotted across all chapters, there is still a lot of work cited from the 1970s and 1980s, likely to have been left from the much earlier editions. Old does not always mean outdated and irrelevant, nor that the results are necessarily no longer valid. It is interesting to know that the concept of rank order stems from work on chickens in the 1920s (Schjelderup-Ebbe 1922). Another example is Fig. 30.1 (p 309), which is a simple drawing of data obtained more than 50 years ago. It illustrates in four simple diagrams the differences in feeding time between cows of high and low rank when different types and combinations of barriers are fitted to the feed trough. I am also sure that the finding that pigs eat more when food is diluted with low-energy material, work done in 1967 by Owen and Ridgman, is still valid. With the advent of accelerometers, however, things have moved on since rumination was measured by placing a rubber tube around the jaw of the animal.

There is no doubt that this book is valuable as a one-stop source of information and references on many aspects of behaviour and welfare in domestic animals at home and on the farm. Having been written by one of the most well-known and acclaimed figures in animal behaviour and welfare comes with great responsibility, as students and lecturers will be dipping into parts of this book when looking for information on specific subjects they may know little about. For this reason, it is particularly important that the information is both up-to-date and factual. And some errors have snuck in or been overlooked in the revision. For example, the section on pheromones includes an example about mice reacting to the smell of human shirts, and has a picture of a dog and a horse sniffing each other, but the definition of a pheromone is an odour or odorant that transmits information between conspecifics, ie within the same species (Wyatt 2014). The section on religious slaughter without stunning leaves the reader with the impression that most if not all halal slaughter occurs in non-stunned animals, whereas the opposite is often the case: 58% of halal slaughter in England and Wales is carried out with pre-stunning (DEFRA 2019), and all poultry in Denmark, where pre-stunning is compulsory at slaughter, is certified halal. Another example is the suggestion that low atmospheric pressure stunning (LAPS) can be used to humanely stun pigs, where the reference cited (Bouwsema & Lines 2019) emphasised that the effects of LAPS on pigs were, at the time of publication, uncertain, and more recent studies have (unfortunately) shown it to be unsuitable for use in this species (McKeegan et al 2020).

The book has almost 100 pages of references, which is a great resource in itself, not least because of the many older studies cited that may not be available in the electronic science databases. Because of its broadness, this book is a very good starting point for anyone interested in domestic animal behaviour and welfare, as many of the concepts described and issues raised are as pertinent today as when the first edition was published. As always, for comprehensive information on specific items, the reader will need to dip into more detailed sources, some of them listed in the suggested reading.


Bouwsema JA and Lines JA 2019 Could low atmospheric pressure stunning (LAPS) be suitable for pig slaughter? A review of available information. Animal Welfare 28: 421-432. https://doi.org/10.7120/09627286.28.4.421

DEFRA 2019 Results of the 2018 FSA (Food Safety Authority) survey into slaughter methods in England and Wales. Report published by Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 58 pp. Available at www.gov.uk/government/publications

McKeegan DEF, Martin J and Baxter EM 2020 LAPS in pigs is not a humane alternative to stunning with carbon dioxide. The Meat Hygienist 180: 20-22

Owen JB and Ridgman WJ 1967 The effect of dietary energy content on the voluntary intake of pigs. Animal Production 9: 107-113

Schjelderup-Ebbe T 1922 Beiträge zur Sozialpsychologie des Haushuhns. Zeitschrift für Psychologie 88: 225-252. [Title translation: Contributions to the social psychology of the domestic fowl]

Wyatt TD 2014 Pheromones and Animal Behaviour: Chemical Signals and Signatures. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139030748

Birte L Nielsen,
UFAW, Wheathampstead, UK

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